Arts are one of the unique methods of communication, to articulate your ideas for dialogue, to articulate ideas around dissent, to articulate ideas that envision a reality beyond the reality that is in front of us, so that we can continue to imagine the world that we want to live in. Prompting the Political Imagination: Art and Open Society [Art is a way to stimulate the emancipation of the people. Art is really the space that liberates, that sets things free, frees the language, the ability to be connected with others, which allows us to live openly. It is the only way to be able to have an enlightened society.] Art can be very powerful in terms of how it can possibly change perception and what it can make people think about which is something you know that governments I think are acutely aware of. The world is phasing, closing societies, shrinking of civic space and restriction in access, in expression. Artistic freedom is essential for open society to flourish. Art is a fundamental appreciation for the kind of society that
we are trying to live in, that we’re trying to build. When we find ourselves in challenging times, when we find ourselves facing the brutality of oppression, it is essential that we recognize the authenticity, the power, the credibility that artists have. [At a certain time, the moment had come when my wife and I became an inconvenience for Belarus authorities. There were five criminal cases for the two of us. This happened in after the 2010 presidential election. We had an option to escape, and we were able to do so. We now have two homes: Belarus and Great Britain. Our other director and I stage plays using Skype, and our performances take place over there. I did not feel like I was a victim during these moments. I saw this as the cost of doing what you want to do in a time of dictatorship.] I use my art to bring in the politics. For instance, I stand up in front of 300,000 people as a woman and I start
moving to music. I’m dancing. These 300,000 people have never seen a woman stand on stage in Pakistan and dance. So that itself is a political statement. So, basically, I see our performances as resistance. And I want to build that resistance into our people. The idea is to make our audience think. To think that there are possibilities, there are alternatives through the kind of lives they’re living. [In a country like Guatemala, we can’t be silent. We can’t have a life without expressing ourselves. I’m a poet but at some point, I had so much energy contained within me due to the situation in Guatemala, due to the context in which I was growing up, I started to work with my body. When I found contemporary art, I found the possibility of expressing suppressed emotions through performance to be able to resist this situation.] A lot of people find my work offensive sometimes. They see me as a foreign message or somebody that’s trying to ruin our society, and our traditions because I’m trying to say a different thing. This is what we do as cartoonists and this is what we do as artists, is shake people out of their comfort zone. Sometimes, when there’s a lot of censorship, it creates a lot of creativity as well. And that’s really what’s happening in the Arab region now, as a whole, because the tighter you get, we find alternative ways of saying it. Art is more important than ever, in this climate. Authoritarians are quite clear about the need to shut down artists and to defund artists and so I think as people working for social justice and human rights, we need to also be clear of the power in agency that artists hold in society, so that we can actually create spaces for freedom of expression when the authoritarian governments are actually pushing for their silence. We have more and more examples throughout the world of populations who are choosing governments who are more populist and who are closing more and more barriers. It is very scary. It would be a very dark place. We want people to be exposed to art because it opens your mind to other possibilities and that’s what’s most important.